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Voting Privileges

U N I V E R S I T Y   O F   C A L I F O R N I A
September 24, 2007
Formal Ruling
The Rules Committee has been asked by Professor Arnold Kim, Faculty Chair of the School of Natural Sciences, to rule on the application of Academic Senate Bylaw 55 voting rights to a committee structure created to undertake development of a strategic plan.
As described by Professor Kim, the Natural Sciences faculty will participate in the development of a strategic plan through planning groups based on research and teaching interests. Each planning group will address a particular section of the strategic plan. Each faculty member in the School will hold a “primary membership” in a particular planning group. This primary membership carries rights to participate in discussion and rights to vote on the relevant section of the plan. In addition, faculty members may choose to hold a “secondary membership” in other planning groups under which the secondary member may participate in discussions, but is not entitled to vote.
The final plan will be presented to the entire faculty for approval. The faculty of the School of Natural Resources operates as a single Bylaw 55 voting unit, i.e., the faculty is not divided into separate departments for purposes of conducting the business of the faculty.
A faculty member objects to the planning structure arrangement as violating the faculty member’s right under Academic Senate Bylaw 55 to vote on substantial departmental questions.
Academic Senate Bylaw 55A.1. provides that “According to the Standing Orders of the Regents, ‘. . . the several departments of the University, with the approval of the President, shall determine their own form of administrative organization . . .’ No department shall be organized in a way that would deny to any of its non-emeritae/i faculty who are voting members of the Academic Senate, as specified in Standing Order 105.l(a), the right to vote on substantial departmental questions, excepting only certain personnel actions as detailed in Article B of this Bylaw.”1
UC Merced Divisional bylaws, Part III, section 1.A., fourth bullet, authorize a Faculty to “delegate its authority to committees or to its officers.”
Bylaws of the Faculty of the School of Natural Sciences, Part I, section 1, provide that the Faculty of the School “shall conduct the government of the School . . .”, and recognizes that the Faculty is a committee of the Merced Division.2 Other than establishing the executive committee of the Faculty (Part IV, § 4), the School bylaws do not contain any limitation on the authority of the Faculty to delegate authority to committees as permitted by UC Merced Academic Senate Bylaw Part III., section 1.A. Part VII, section 9, of the School bylaws requires a majority of votes cast to approve matters brought to a vote of the Faculty.
Because the School of Natural Sciences does not have any departments below the level of the Faculty, the Faculty itself comprises the Academic Senate Bylaw 55 voting unit for the members of the School. Thus, the voting requirements of SBL 55 apply to decisions of the Faculty. In addition, in the absence of separate departmental bylaws, departmental voting is undertaken in accord with the Faculty bylaws.
Senate Bylaw 55 does not guarantee every member of a Bylaw 55 voting unit a right to participate in committees formed within the voting unit. To imply such a limitation on the ability of a unit to undertake examination of important questions through a committee structure would hobble effective decision making and review within the unit. The Merced divisional bylaws expressly contemplate the creation of committees with a Faculty. However, adoption of committee recommendations as policy positions, regulations, or recommendations of the Faculty, does require that voting participation is available to the Academic Senate members of the Faculty.
Under the structure proposed by the School of Natural Sciences, any plan developed within the committee structure is subject to approval by the Faculty. Presumably, orderly procedure will permit considerations of amendments to the plan as presented for approval by the Faculty.
All members of the Faculty will be provided an opportunity to vote on adoption of the strategic plan as drafted by the various planning committees. Therefore, no member of the Faculty is deprived of his or her Bylaw 55 right to vote on adoption of the plan, which we presume, without further analysis, represents a substantial departmental question. The fact that the strategic planning process developed by the School of Natural Sciences envisions a drafting process in which not all Faculty members are entitled to vote on every aspect of the development of the plan to be presented to the Faculty as a whole does not deny a faculty member’s ultimate right to vote on adoption of the plan.
The committee structure envisioned by the School of Natural Sciences, under which each faculty member has voting privileges in a primary group, and rights to participate but not vote in secondary groups, does not violate a faculty member’s voting rights under Academic Senate Bylaw 55 as long as all of the members of the Faculty have a right to vote on the final adoption of the plan.
UC Merced Committee on Rules and Elections:
Martha Conklin, Chair
Daniel Simmons, Vice Chair (UC Davis)
Teenie Matlock
Jean Olson (UC San Francisco)
1 Article B details voting rights in academic personnel actions and is not at issue in this ruling.
2 Section 1 limits the authority of the Faculty by noting that graduate study is subject to regulation by the Graduate and Research Council and that the Faculty is not responsible for student discipline.